24(ish) hours in Rome

I jumped into one of the white taxis waiting outside Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, laughing a little when I heard “Thriller” come on the cab radio. On the short ride to the hotel, with the taxi driver’s very bad English and my very bad Spanish, I practiced some very basic Italian:

Me: “How much.. como se dice?”

Taxi driver: “How much.. quanto costa.”

Me: “Okay, quanto costa … and, hello is ciao?”

Taxi driver: “Ciao, hello!”

Me: “Goodbye means…”

Taxi driver: “Goodbye, arrivederci”

Me: “arrivedkfjasli … Thank you?”

Taxi Driver: “Grazie”

Me: “Grazie … “

I met J at the hotel, and we immediately took the bus downtown in search of food. With sleepy eyes and growling bellies, we then walked for what felt like forever, before finding The Mirror pizzeria.

forking river on the way to forking food

forking river on the way to forking food

The Mirror Pizzeria

The Mirror Pizzeria

We squeezed in to a table in the back of the restaurant which was stuffed to the brim with loud, chatty customers, and hungrily devoured tomato bruschetta and two pizzas: diavola (spicy sauce) for me, and pepperoni for J. One bottle of smooth, Italian Chianti later, the waitress easily convinced us to split the tiramisu. The desert was extra yummy due to the fact it wasn’t lacking the coffee liqueur that’s almost always missing in the Doha version! Come prepared with small cash for a tip, as they conveniently did not have any change.

tiramisu for 2

tiramisu for 2

After dinner, we found the iconic Trevi Fountain. We had visited the fountain once before, on J’s/my/our first overnight trip to Rome. However, that first time, we neglected to throw coins into the fountain. Legend has it, throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain ensures you will return to Rome. We had already returned to Rome, even without donating to the fountain, but still made a point to (very quickly, when the cops weren’t looking) chuck in a coin. This happened after stopping for a scoop of gelato first, of course.

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Fontana di Trevi

Since leaving Rome this second time, I discovered the coin is supposed to be thrown from your right hand, backwards over your left shoulder (no peeking!). Also, there are supposed to be 3 coins thrown: 1 to guarantee returning to Rome, 1 for a new romance, and one for marriage. I’m not sure where we stand on the Trevi Fountain coin tossing scale, but at this point it’s fair to say that myth is BUSTED!

The next morning, we woke up in time to catch the (free) hotel bus to the City Center, then took a taxi from there to Vatican City. For a variety of personal reasons, I swore up and down I would never visit the Vatican. As with every other time I’ve said “I’ll never…”, I did.

Down the street from the Vatican, we crammed in to yet another tiny, filled-to-max-capacity Italian restaurant, Wine Bar. Because J had to fly an airplane in a few hours, we didn’t get to indulge in any grape-y delight. The place was off the beaten path, and the numerous priests dining there made us feel like we had hit a local jackpot. Sharing a small table with 2 other restaurant patrons, we savored a simple caprese salad, followed by a sausage pizza for J, and spinach-ricotta cannelloni for me. Olive Garden will never be the same!

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Wine Bar

After lunch, on our way to the Vatican, we walked by a BeDazzled Smart car. What could be more worthy of five seconds of internet fame than a BeDazzled Smart car?!

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BeDazzled Smart car

Happy Travel ticket scalpers were all over Saint Peter’s Square, trying their hardest to sell tickets for tours of Saint Peter’s Basilica and some other nearby sights. I think they were charging 35 Euro per person, and maybe that’s worth it if you really want a 4-hour-long explanation of everything you’re looking at, by someone whose first language is not English. We neither had that kind of time, nor wanted to spend that kind of money. Also, admission to Saint Peter’s Basilica is FREE! The line in front is not to buy a ticket – it’s a security line that moves fairly quickly, and you have to stand in that line even if you’ve already been ripped off by Happy Travel salespeople.

Saint Peter's Basilica

Saint Peter’s Basilica

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Looking up inside Saint Peter’s Basilica

One of numerous dead Popes in Saint Peter's Basilica

One of numerous dead Popes in Saint Peter’s Basilica

Next up was a short walk to visit the Vatican Museums, home of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

Sala Rotonda ceiling

Vatican Museum – Sala Rotonda ceiling

Vatican Museum - Gallery of Maps

Vatican Museum – Gallery of Maps

FYI: NO CAMERAS ARE ALLOWED IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL, NOT EVEN WITH THE FLASH OFF! We had walked all throughout the Vatican Museums, snapping flashless photos here and there, so I was totally shocked and very embarrassed when a guard angrily informed me that no pictures are allowed in the Sistine Chapel. I’m sure there was a sign somewhere, but I somehow missed it and, as a result, felt about 2″ tall for the next hour! Accidental Asshole in the house Sistine Chapel! Learn from my mistake!

By the time we finished exploring the Vatican Museums, it was dinnertime! I know it sounds like all we do is eat. We definitely don’t miss any meals. I don’t think I need to justify enjoying a meal (in Rome of all places – or anywhere else, for that matter), but this expat lifestyle is temporary, and the days really are numbered. We try to make the most of every opportunity, and eating pasta in Rome is the opportunity of a lifetime, so that is what we did.

The rustic looking, cozy feeling, dimly lit restaurant we ducked into was empty except for one other couple. It’s always interesting how much cheese is in American Italian restaurant food. Cheese, cheese, cheese – say when! Because really, who doesn’t love cheese!? Here, it was just a light dusting on top – the perfect balance, and something I will try to remember to do at home. Less cheese meant being able to taste the delicious tomato basil sauce.

tomato & basil spaghetti

tomato & basil spaghetti

We don’t usually have desert after every meal, but when in Rome…

There was cream filled cannoli with our names on it!

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dolci to the right

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dolci to the left

How we made it out of there with only one piece will remain a mystery.

We took a cab to the area near the bus stop, and were dropped off at Piazza Venezia, across from the Altare della Patria.

Complesso del Vittoriano (I think)

Complesso del Vittoriano (I think)

We popped in to the Gran Caffe Roma to get out of the “cold” (40or 50F – cold for having come from the desert!) while waiting for the bus. J got his caffeine fix with a frothy cappuccino, and I sipped on an incredibly sweet Italian hot chocolate. It was so rich, I could only drink about half of it, but it hit the spot and warmed my fingers.

I’m excited to try this easy Italian hot chocolate recipe on my parents when I go home… TOMORROW!

How to Make Italian Hot Chocolate
This recipe is by Paula Jones and can also be found by clicking this link!

What You Will Need:

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate 70% or higher
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch

What To Do:

  1. Into a saucepan over LOW heat add chocolate and a smidge of milk. Stir with a wooden spoon until melted.
  2. SLOWLY add remaining milk until it’s well combined. Add sugar. Mix to combine. Whisk in corn starch.
  3. Continue cooking over LOW heat until it becomes thick, creamy and coats the back of the wooden spoon.
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My First Massage Ever: Bulgarian Hotel Basement Style

The day before Halloween, I caught J’s flight to Sofia, Bulgaria!

Hotel view

Hotel view

Stepping out of the airport and into Sofia’s cool autumn air was immediately invigorating. The stuffiness of the hot, dusty desert was nowhere to be found.

I should have been satisfied with the crisp, feel-good air. But no. After we checked into the hotel, I decided I wanted a massage.

I had never received a real massage before. The top two reasons for this are 1.) I don’t like being ripped off (paying to be touched feels very rip-off-esque to me), and 2.) I don’t like strangers touching me. Strangers touching me makes me very uncomfortable. I’ll talk all day with someone I’ve just met, but that someone had better stay out of my bubble.

Since J gets a discount at the hotel spa, I figured it was time to try this massage thing I hear so many people rave about. We called down to the spa and scheduled our 45 min massages. I’d be the Guinea pig and go first, then come back up to the room and get ready for dinner while J got his.

With only 15 minutes to get ready, I had no idea what to wear. I decided on black work-out capris (the ones that have seen more time on the couch than on a treadmill) and a t-shirt. I waited anxiously in the glass elevator as it descended from the sunlit top floors of the hotel to the underground darkness of Floor -2.

The elevator doors opened across from a contemporary looking, dimly lit sitting area with a counter. Nobody was at the counter, so I waited around a minute before being greeted by the only spa employee I would see that day. The dark haired, middle aged lady was dressed in what appeared to be white spandex leggings and an equally tight, white V-neck shirt. I’m not sure what kind of attire I was expecting the massage therapist to be wearing – maybe scrubs? maybe a polo shirt and slacks? maybe something a little more professional?

She handed me a big, blue bathrobe and a pair of disposable hotel slippers, pointed to a dark room and told me to go change. Through the dark room, I found a changing room/bathroom, where I changed in a hurry and wondered if it is only in America that we worry about the privacy aspect of things like etched glass doors with no locks – or maybe it’s just me?

Holding the beltless bathrobe around me, I shuffled back to the spa counter and The Woman in White led me to the massage room. It was a very small, very warm room, dimly lit, but not dim enough that I couldn’t see the Bulgarian lotto scratch-off ticket next to the massage table. Is that normal!? Are these things normal?! I tried to imagine a scenario in which a massage therapist brought a scratch-off ticket into the massage room. Did she really not have enough time to scratch it off on the way to work? Not even at the front desk? Was it somebody’s lucky day in the massage room!?

Then, The Woman in White wanted my bathrobe. I kind of thought she might turn around to allow me some privacy, but obviously this was my mistake, because she wanted the robe and she wanted it now! I hesitated, and she laughed, asking me where I’m from. I thought about saying, “I JUST CAME FROM A MUSLIM COUNTRY WHERE I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO SHOW ANYTHING BETWEEN MY KNEES AND SHOULDERS SO CUT ME SOME SLACK IF I’M A LITTLE SLOW TO GET BUCK NAKED IN FRONT OF YOU!” but I just said, “USA.” The Lady in White laughed and said, “You look like Italian lady!” It seems there really is no place outside of the US where I will ever look American…

Before handing over the bathrobe, I tried explaining “breast implants.” Yes, I have breast implants. No, I don’t like to lie on them. Why not? Because ew gross, and I am afraid they are going to shoot out my sides, and ew gross again. Anyway, “breast implants” does not translate very well, so there was a moment of comical hand gestures and awkward laughing and I finally just gave her that stupid blue bathrobe and got on the table. She gave me a few towels to stack up and create an “airbag moat,” and the massage – the one I waited 27 years to receive – began.

The sweet scent of citrus oil was overshadowed by what sounded like a classic adult film soundtrack  playing in the background while The Lady in White smacked her gum from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. For all I knew, there was a giant bowl of Rice Krispies flying around the room, snap-crackle-and-poppin’ as loud as The Lady in White pushed hard, much like a car with a stereo playing louder the faster it goes. Porno jams and Rice Krispies eventually teamed up with a squeaky booger, so that 45 minutes later, The Lady in White informed me I never really relaxed and maybe I should just get a head massage next time.

When I got back to the hotel room, I laughingly told J about my experience, and wished him luck in his 45 minutes of Bulgarian bliss! When he returned from the spa, I asked him what he thought. He reported, “I’m glad it was cheap… she looked like Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys… I just, I dunno… I dunno if I like massages any more…”

Although I won’t likely do it again, I’m glad to have finally tried a massage, even if it was in a Bulgarian hotel basement.

What is the craziest massage experience you’ve had?

Georgian Haramadan

I have regretted a lot of things, but I have never regretted traveling.

On Sunday, August 4, the first day of American embassy closures across the Middle East and North Africa due to unspecified “information” and “conditions,” I hopped on a flight with J to Tbilisi, Georgia.

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(Partial) Emergency Message for US Citizens: August 1, 2013

I am regularly told I don’t “look” American (whatever that means), and I really do have a fairly strong faith in The Country’s ability and desire to keep the people here safe. Even so, sensationalism by the media of the newly increased “risk” and “threat” of al Qaeda had me on mental red alert since reading the August 1st emergency message I received from the US embassy here.

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Aug. 3 – CNN International Edition (On an unrelated note, notice NO MENTION of Edward Snowden)

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Aug. 3 – CNN US Edition (HOLY SNOWDEN OBSESSION, AMERICA!)

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Aug. 3 – Al Jazeera

As I made my way through The Country’s airport before the flight to Tbilisi, I kept my beautiful blue passport concealed and spoke to no one except when prompted by security.

When the magnetic forces of the duty free shop pulled me in, I immediately gravitated toward the book section.

I love bookstores. And I love books. I’m not very good at finishing books, because while reading one, a tidbit of information will pique my interest and then whoosh! I’m turning the pages of another. It’s a vicious cycle.

Leisurely flipping through the crisp pages of some airport bestsellers was a vacation in itself. There aren’t many bookstores here – definitely not any used bookstores (to my knowledge), which I love so much back home. No one, neither J nor a driver of any sort, was waiting for me to hurry up and get back to the car; rather, I was just waiting for my flight. The only thing missing was a comfy chair and a hot drink. (Barnes & Noble, I MISS YOU.)

I happily boarded the flight to Tbilisi with 3 new gems: Robert Lacey’s Inside the Kingdom (banned in Saudi Arabia), William Woodruff’s A Concise History of the Modern World, and Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (who doesn’t love light reading with inspirational quotes?!).

Unfortunately, the fact that I only put one of my new books down long enough to enjoy a savory spinach and cheese crepe mid-flight didn’t stop Overly Confident Local Man from trying to chat me up. He inquired about my travel plans to Tbilisi. I said I am visiting with my husband there. I opted to keep it vague, because really, the last thing a stranger needs to know in the wake of this alleged terrorism + closed embassy hogwash is that I’m an American and my American husband is FLYING THE AIRPLANE WE’RE ON.

He told me about the very important business he will be conducting over the next year in Tbilisi, then gave me his number on a receipt (because apparently not all very important businessmen have business cards) then made sure to let me know that number was available 24 hours (oh good, so it’s not a payphone). I abruptly buried my face back into my book and he apologized for bothering me.

While I was speed reading the left page of my book to avoid eye contact on his side of the plane, I noticed out of my periph something bright waving around. Fantastic, he was trying to show me a cell phone picture of his daughter.

“She’s so cute!” I told him with a forced smile.

Back to my book. Again, bright light waving around in periph.

“What is your mobile?” he boldly requested. (“Mobile” here means “cell phone number” and the lazy abbreviation has a nails-on-a-chalkboard effect on my nerves.)

“I can’t,” I said, shaking my head N-O. He looked confused. “I can’t, I can’t,” I repeated, finally pointing to the front of the plane.

“Your husband?!” he asked, looking a little worried.

“Yeahhhhh,” I smiled.

I had to bite my lip and think of some really awful things to stifle the laugh that was bubbling up as the failed pick-up attempt of Airplane Creeper replayed itself in my mind.

Note to Men: Don’t hit on girls on airplanes. We may be a captive audience for the duration of the flight, but that won’t make it any less awkward. This is especially true when we are married, when YOU KNOW we’re married, and when EVERYONE WORKING ON THE PLANE knows we’re married. Don’t be That Guy.

Finally, we landed in Tbilisi. I thanked my lucky stars to be out of the desert and away from the restrictions of a month-long religious holiday.

The feeling is mutual, Tbilisi!

The feeling is mutual, Tbilisi!

Upon arriving at the hotel, we quickly changed clothes. I was unnaturally excited to rip off the black leggings and cardigan I had paired with my dress. My personal style has really transformed over the last year due to living in a Muslim country. At this point, I wholeheartedly believe that too much modesty is better than not enough modesty. I think modest attire almost always appears more flattering and demands more respect. Even so, sometimes it’s nice to feel free from multiple layers of clothes. I like my skin, I’m not ashamed of my skin, and I tire of worrying about how much must be covered.

As we walked to our favorite hole in the wall restaurant/bar, I felt like a teenager that had just moved out of my parents’ house. Flaunting bare knees and bare shoulders, it didn’t really matter if I’d hit or missed looking amazing – I felt amazing.

I'm not perfect, but I'm free!

I’m not perfect, but I’m free!

Inside Cellar on Rustaveli

Inside Cellar on Rustaveli

Our Georgian dinner was as delicious as I had remembered it when I visited with J previously.

Just getting started...

Just getting started…

I kept it veg friendly with warm Georgian bread, hearty “bean in a pot,” Chvishtary (cornbread with cheese), and crispy cheese blins. Always eager to make up for missed meat, J ordered a huge rack of pork ribs (“smoked ribs menu”) and pork shashlik, the latter of which he says is his favorite thing on the menu (his exact words were, “It was pretty f***in’ awesome!”). We washed it all down with Georgian beer and wine, and slept like logs when our heads finally hit our pillows.

The next morning, we opted out of the overpriced hotel breakfast and went to a nearby cafe. The service left much to be desired, but the coffee, pastries, and outdoor seating were the perfect way to start the day.

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

Waking up with coffee & an apricot pastry

Waking up with coffee & an apricot pastry

We definitely take the little things, like eating/drinking as we please, for granted. I couldn’t help thinking of David Turashvili’s movie-novel, Flight from USSR, where Soso Tsereteli’s father smuggled a pair of “genuine American jeans” into Soviet Georgia in the 1980’s. According to the author, “The banned jeans became sweeter than the forbidden fruit … In those days, every pair of jeans were believed to be American and, as the Soviet propaganda was set on destroying American values, many associated happiness with where jeans were thought to be in abundance” (Flight from USSR). I’d like to say I can’t even imagine, but I can.

After deep thoughts at breakfast, I hit an accessory sale jackpot at a nearby shop.

Tbilisi Turquoise

Tbilisi Turquoise

We took a cab to the Old Town area, admiring Narikala Fortress, St. Nicolas Church, and the swaying cable cars we rode only a few months previously, from below.

Tbilisi Old Town

Tbilisi Old Town

In the future, we’ll start a day in Tbilisi in the Old Town area. We had no idea how much was there!

Sulphur Bathhouses

Sulphur Bathhouses

Old Town mosque above sulfur spring water

Old Town mosque above sulfur spring water

We stopped for a light lunch at an Old Town restaurant called Konka Station. Taking advantage of every opportunity to sit outside, we made ourselves comfortable on their misted patio. It didn’t take long for a friendly street cat to make our acquaintance. I enjoyed a vegetable ragout that reminded me of our first meal in Istanbul, J picked through a Greek salad, and the three of us (myself, J, and Street Cat) shared Khachapuri Imeruli.

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After coffee and J’s strange chocolate milkshake concoction (chocolate milk plus an ice cube), we left Street Cat to see what else we could squeeze in during our last hour in Tbilisi.

We wound up down the street at the Georgian Orthodox Sioni Cathedral, which was originally built in the 5th Century, but destroyed and rebuilt multiple times since then.

Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral

Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral

Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral

Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral

We hung a right out of the church, expecting to catch a cab to return to the hotel, when I spotted one of my favorite things E-V-E-R…

A CARPET STORE!

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J’s Worst Nightmare

My Achilles' heel

Inside: my Achilles’ heel

I have a serious weakness for handwoven rugs. J, however, could not be any less interested. Especially after the week we spent in Istanbul, it is probably safe to use the word “dread” when describing J’s feelings about carpet stores. If I ever have any doubt about his feelings for me, I can just remember the oodles of kilims we (I) admired in Istanbul, and the fact that he didn’t abandon me in Turkey, and I know the guy loves me.

Rugs in Tbilisi are SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive than in Istanbul. In Tbilisi, the carpet sales people do not seem to care whether you enter their shop or keep on truckin’. Istanbul is a much different story, with salesmen quick to make you feel at home with a hot cup of tea if you so much as glance in their direction.

Somehow, we managed to leave the Georgian carpet store with a small kilim without feeling completely robbed.

K is for Kilim!

K is for Kilim!

A few hours later, we were back at the Tbilisi airport. I sat next to an American couple while waiting to board the plane. How did I know they were American? Because THEY WERE TALKING LIKE TYPING IN ALL CAPS MIGHT SOUND. IT’S NOT LIKE TRAVEL ALERTS FOR AMERICANS WERE SWIRLING AROUND ALL OVER THE PLACE OR ANYTHING.

US Embassy Aug. 2

US Embassy Travel Alert (Aug. 2)

“U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves while traveling” might imply to STOP BEING SO DAMN LOUD.

Anyway, the American lady (also an expat), at a very high decibel, told me all about their travel mishaps over the last few weeks, how she just wants to move home (don’t we all), and about the couple of cats she saw doin’ the deed in her friend’s garden, while I sat there wondering what about myself suggests to people I want to hear this crap. She mentioned the all too common theme among expat wives of giving up her career to come here for him. That is one fire that will never run out of fuel.

We landed back in The Country around midnight. While walking through the arrivals terminal, I noticed a white man standing out like a sore thumb in a sea of brown. He was on the other side of the glass dividing new arrivals from the waiting area, eagerly scanning the arriving passengers as they walked through. Suddenly, his face lit up as though he’d won the lottery, and I heard two little voices behind me call out, “Papa! Papa!”. A woman hurriedly pushed a cart of suitcases past me, with two young children seated on top like two cherries on top of a giant suitcase sundae. The sweet sight of their Papa scooping them up, embracing one in each arm, made me a little sick, because I know what it’s like to deeply miss loved ones.

I found a seat in the immigration area while I waited for J. A little girl across from me was repeating abracadabra! and at that moment there were so many things I wished would happen.

For now, where we are, the media is the greatest agent of terror. We’ve started locking our doors, but we won’t be giving up on the world any time soon!

24(ish) Hours in Warsaw

Last week, I was thrilled to accompany J on another of his trips for work. He goes to so many cool destinations; it is a dream come true for me to be able to travel with him to the fun ones. The clock is ticking on our expat lifestyle, and it would be crazy to pass up these travel opportunities!

This trip found us in Warsaw, the capital of Poland.

Business class was full on the way over, however in “steerage” (as J calls it), I scored a seat in an empty row and was able to put the armrests up and stretch out across 3 seats. Not too shabby! I was just happy to have made the flight. If you’ve ever traveled standby, you know what I mean…

We landed at the Warsaw Chopin Airport around 6:00AM. At Polska Kontrola Paszportowa, I impatiently waited in line while the travelers in front of me (one Asian woman and two black men) got absolutely grilled by border control agents. When it was my turn, I handed the agent my passport and waited for the 20 Questions game to ensue. Instead, the agent looked at my passport picture, looked at me, and promptly stamped my passport. No questions asked. I love my American passport!

Happy Independence Day from Poland!

Happy Independence Day from Poland!

Very tired from the night flight, and much too early to do anything anyway, we enjoyed a solid 5 hour nap at our business district hotel. When we awoke, we took a hotel cab to the Jewish Cemetery. Although the majority of Warsaw was destroyed in World War II, the Jewish Cemetery remains. Exploring the sacred grounds and reading the dates on a fraction of the 200,000+ tombstones was extremely humbling. I highly recommend all Warsaw visitors witness this beautiful resting place.

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We decided to head to Warsaw’s Old Town after visiting the Jewish Cemetery. Little did we know, the kosher thing to do in Warsaw is to order a taxi by phone, which we did not have. After unsuccessfully trying to hail multiple cabs, we wound up walking about halfway to Old Town.

Cemetery to Old Town

Cemetery to Old Town

Not really a huge deal, except I’m pretty sure we weren’t walking the direct route. And I was wearing these:

paper thin

paper thin

We stopped in a grocery store along the way to pick up some cold water and snacks. The freshly baked Polish pastries we found didn’t last long enough for a photo opp, but they did give us the energy we needed to continue our walk until we found a non-phone-ahead cab. The cab ride was short, as we were already so close to Old Town!

We found a nice restaurant with patio seating in the middle of the Old Town Market.

Old Town Market Place

Old Town Market Place

J made up for all of the pork he doesn’t get in The Country, while I enjoyed potato and cheese pierogies with sour cream.

Raspberry-y beer & a plate of pierogies

Raspberry-y beer & a plate of pierogies

After rolling ourselves away from our plates, we strolled around the vintage area, soaking up all of the sights.

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Hooker adverts

Hooker adverts

We noticed lots of advertisements for “working girls” on car windows. It appeared the more run down the car, the more ads adorned the windows. I’m not sure what types of correlations can be drawn from that, but it seems w#@&%$ may be attracted to junkers. Imagine that?!

We kept walking until we came to the Church of St. Anne.

Kościół św. Anny

Kościół św. Anny

The church’s bell tower had a VIEWING TERRACE sign, so of course we had to check it out! I think we paid about $1.25 each to go up.

150 steps to the top!

150 steps to the top!

Soviet looking entrance/exit hole

Soviet looking entrance/exit hole

Old Town view 1

Old Town view 1

Old Town view 2

Old Town view 2

View 3

View 3

After making our way down from the viewing terrace, it took no time at all to get our hands on some Polskie lody (did I get that right? Polish ice cream!).

lody dody da

lody dody da

One chocolate duzy (“large”) swiderki (I don’t know) + one vanilla duzy (“large”) wloskie (“Italian,” according to Google Translate??) = $3.31

After walking off our lody, we took a very overpriced cab back to the hotel and wandered down the street for dinner at a restaurant called Babooshka. Part of me felt like I was cheating by dining at a Russian restaurant in Poland instead of at a Polish restaurant in Poland, but the rustic decor was so cute, and the food was so good, I didn’t regret it for a moment!

Delicious blinczyki with spinach & white cheese for $5.09!

Delicious blinczyki with spinach & white cheese for $5.09!

The next morning, we woke up early to take a hotel cab to the Lazienki Krolewskie Park & Palace. The Palace on the Water, the White House, and Myslewicki Palace were all beautifully designed and well preserved, embellished with lavish paintings, ornate rugs, and an array of other period appropriate antique furnishings.

Łazienki Palace on the Water (Pałac Łazienkowski)

Łazienki Palace on the Water (Pałac Łazienkowski)

Pałac Myślewicki entrance

Pałac Myślewicki entrance

Little White House (Biały Domek) interior

Little White House (Biały Domek) interior

All architectural grandiosity aside, my favorite part of our time at Lazienki Park was being surrounded by the beautiful greenery that we miss in the desert.

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???????????????????????????????To top it all off, when we were leaving the park, a little squirrel ran by. I crouched down, and it actually jumped onto my knee and put its little hand into mine to see if I had any food! I didn’t have any, so he scurried away as quickly as he had come. It was a scene straight out of Snow White! I’m happy to report I am rabies-free.

We made the most of our short stay in Warsaw, but there’s still so much more I want to see and do there!

Warsaw Bucket List:

* Admire Warsaw from the Orange Balloon Station

* Visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum

* Enjoy a Chopin piano recital at Lazienki Park

* Find an authentic Polish recipe cookbook

* Become a master Polish pastry chef

Any other suggestions?